Book Review: “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner

Granddaughters of Edward IIIWhen we think about the legacy of Edward III, we often think about a warrior king who became king after his father, Edward II’s disastrous fall from grace. We know about his sons that he had with his beloved wife, Philippa of Hainault: Edward the Black Prince, Lionel of Antwerp, Duke of Clarence, John of Gaunt 1st Duke of Lancaster, Edmund of Langley, 1st Duke of York, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester. Famously, we get the 15th-century conflict known as the Wars of the Roses through the descendants of Edward III. However, the male descendants only tell half the story of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault’s legacy in England and throughout Europe. In her latest book, “The Granddaughters of Edward III,” Kathryn Warner examines the lives of Edward III’s female descendants to better appreciate the strength of this group of branches of the Plantagenet family tree.

Thank you, Pen and Sword Books and Net Galley, for sending me a copy of this book. I am always looking for more books about the Plantagenets, and I know a bit about Edward III’s sons but not much about his granddaughters.

Warner has chosen to take a joint biography approach to this book by focusing on nine out of eleven of Edward III’s granddaughters. These eleven granddaughters were the daughters of Lionel Antwerp, John of Gaunt, Isabella Woodstock, Edmund of Langley, and Thomas of Woodstock. The eleven granddaughters of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault were: Philippa of Clarence, Philippa of Lancaster, Elizabeth of Lancaster, Marie de Coucy, Philippa de Coucy, Catalina of Lancaster, Constance of York, Joan Beaufort, Anne of Gloucester, Joan of Gloucester, and Isabel of Gloucester.

These women were not just great ladies in England, but in the case of Philippa of Lancaster and Catalina of Lancaster, they were Queens of Portugal and Castile, respectively. Philippa of Lancaster ushered in the Illustrious Generation in the history of the royal family of Portugal. Catalina married her mother’s mortal enemy to create a stronger connection between England and Castile. Back in England, the remaining granddaughters had to deal with rebellions against King Henry IV, resulting in husbands and sons being beheaded. One had married her former brother-in-law when her husband died, and another had an affair with the king’s half-brother, resulting in the birth of an illegitimate daughter. A granddaughter had her marriage annulled when her husband decided to marry a lady-in-waiting. One began her life as an illegitimate child and would end up being the grandmother to two Kings of England.

Warner has been able to take the stories of these eleven women who shared a grandfather and show how their tales transformed England, Castile, and Portugal forever. The amount of love and attention she dedicated to this book is admirable. I appreciate how Warner could give readers who only understood the English side of these tales a better understanding of the political situations in Castile and Portugal. If you want a book with brand new medieval heroines with a connection to the Plantagenet dynasty, I highly recommend you read “The Granddaughters of Edward III” by Kathryn Warner.